I mentioned in an earlier post how cost is one of the first questions most people ask in relation to obtaining their US Visa. Well a close second, and usually a subsequent question to the cost one is whether you need a lawyer/attorney for the process.
This is a very interesting question that I have addressed in part in other posts dealing with costs and procedure but will talk about it specifically here.
The H1B Visa;
Ok the truth is I know of no person that did this successfully without the help of the lawyer. And I know a lot of people on H1B visas from all walks of life! I am not saying that it can’t be done but the odds as they stand are completely stacked against you and really completely in favor of the Immigration Attorneys. They more than likely have a powerful lobby in Washington that likes the process as it is as it means more money and billable hours for them!
The reason why the process is stacked against the foreign applicant is as follows;
- In about 2003, when Congress reduced the cap of H1B visas annually from abotu 190,000 to the current 65,000 (plus 20,000 for US Masters Degree holders), it has meant a major shortage of visas compare to applicants
- There are many large corporations particularly in recent years in the IT and Biomedical industries that desperately need foregin talent due to shortage here (people like Bill Gates have called for 500,000 H1B visas annually) and they because of their budgets, size and need will use lawyers to ensure their candidates have the best chance as well as paying the premium filing fee
- The premium filing fee itself is an optional fee of $1,000 which you can pay so your lawyer has phone contact access to your the case officer assessing your application. This a great expense to pay yourself as an optional fee and I have yet to hear (but I could be wrong) of the Immigration officers talking to anyone other than lawyers
- The H1B process itself is very annoyingly complex with its April 1 opening for annual applications, multi level fee system process, lottery system and other conditions imposed around the whole process making it great for lawyers to exploit. Thus meaning if you don’t have a lawyer you are at a severe disadvantage.
Look I would hope if you are in the H1B process, you have an awesome company whom is paying all the legal costs on your behalf as they really value your employment. However if it is you whom are going to have to foot the bill albeit initially or to pay your company back, then do your research and get recommendations and try and find a fixed retainer if you can.
I do have the names of one immigration law firmwho were fine, professional and friendly during my process but as was all paid for on my behalf by the company have no idea what their fee structure is like. If you want their names drop me a comment or note with your email and I can send their names along.
Each visa presents it own unique challenges but if you are applying for the J1, F1 or M1 visas, I would say you don’t need a lawyer. The H2B visa I would also try an avoid the need for legal representation given you can be sponsored by 3rd party organizations.
If you are applying for the K visas relating to fiancees or spouses, it may be a good idea to get one if you can see there may be complications with your case. I think it’s safe to say in most cases that you would be aware if that circumstance relates to you. This is probably a visa where you definitely want the correct outcome.
The L1 I would assume since your company is multi national and you are doing an intra-company transfer they would have lawyers for the process.
I hope this helps to answer tricky questions you may have….